Have candidates really done their homework?

Education reporter Katie Bartel criticizes Chilliwack school trustee candidates for not knowing the community they're representing.

Chilliwack school district has a trades program.

It also has strong, long-standing partnerships with the University of the Fraser Valley.

And yet, listening to some of the school trustee byelection candidates speak this past month, you’d think Chilliwack had neither.

Right from the get-go school trustee candidate Dan Coulter has been platforming on a need for more trades and UFV partnerships in Chilliwack.

“The bottom line is that Chilliwack students don’t have the same opportunities students in other districts have,” said Coulter. “We need more pre-apprenticeship programs in our schools. We need a more significant partnership with the University of the Fraser Valley.”

He’s not alone. Others in the byelection race have followed in his footsteps championing for the same.

Which has left me scratching my head.

What about the Secondary School Apprenticeship (SSA) program? Is that not trades programming?

Currently there are 151 high school students from across the district enrolled, gaining graduation credits through apprenticeships. And thousands more, I’m sure, who have successfully graduated from the program since it was first implemented in 1995.

And what about the district’s Accelerated Enrollment in Industry Training (ACE-IT) program? Currently there are offerings for ACE-IT programs in dairy production, a partnership with Greenbelt Veterinary, as well as in welding, heavy duty mechanics, and autobody repair – all partnerships with UFV.

An ACE-IT hairdressing program is also in development.

Sounds like trades to me.

Coulter’s also been heavily advocating for an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program for Chilliwack, which, to date, the school district doesn’t have.

(G.W. Graham middle-secondary school has an IB middle years program for students between the ages of 13 and 16.)

The IB diploma program is a two-year, intense, academic program, similar to advanced placement, that enables secondary students to earn first-year university credits while still in high school.

It’s internationally recognized and accepted by many universities worldwide.

But the thing is, like most things, IB costs money – a lot of money.

The application for a diploma program alone will set a school back more than $23,000 US. And that doesn’t include annual fees – also in the double digit thousands – IB teacher certification seminars, or student fees.

Where, Mr. Coulter, is Chilliwack going to get that money?

From the government? A government that’s been tightening the education funding purse strings for years?

I don’t think so.

But the thing that boggles my mind the most through this whole byelection is that not one other candidate has called Coulter out on his obvious lack of knowledge or research on the community he’s running in. Rather, in one form or other, Ben Besler, Karen Jarvis, Rob Stelmaschuk and Corey Neyrinck have actually all got behind his call for action, agreeing that the school district should have more trades opportunities and an IB program.

What?

Does this mean none of the candidates have knowledge about the school community they are running to represent?

Or, are they just getting behind political buzz words in hopes they’ll get the points needed for a win come election day?

Either way, scary times ahead for Chilliwack school board.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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